Fresh paprika is fabulous—stale paprika is little more than food coloring. If yours is more than six or eight months old, replace it and store the new bottle in the freezer.
Peeling raw winter squash or pumpkin is not easy, but they are so good roasted you’ll be glad you made the effort. If the peel is tender enough, you can use a vegetable peeler. Otherwise, use a sharp chef’s or butcher knife and a chopping block or cutting board. The knife will be difficult to control. Be sure to cut away from your hands. If the squash is curvy, slice it at the equator of the largest curve, lay the flat side down, and, again, cut away from your hands. If there is any greenish under-peel left, remove it with a vegetable peeler.
Here’s an easy way to clean leeks: Trim away the heavy green part of the leaves. Leaving the roots intact, slice the leeks into quarters from roots to tips. Rinse under running water and place upside-down in a sieve in a large bowl of cold water. Soak for 30 minutes or until free of sand and dirt.
You can layer anything you like into a lasagna: ground beef or veal, chicken, sautéed or roasted bell pepper, marinated artichoke hearts, sautéed mushrooms or eggplant. Instead of goat’s cheese, use ricotta or cottage cheese mixed with a lightly beaten egg. If you don’t have access to mozzarella, use paneer or any mild, nutty cheese.
You can bake any pasta without pre-boiling it. Just add extra liquid—stock, water, tomato juice, or red wine—about an inch up the sides of the pan, and bake for the first 45 minutes under a tinfoil tent. Remove the tinfoil and bake 10 minutes more to brown.